This was the observation made by Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros as Congress holds a joint session on Wednesday to deliberate President Duterte's request to legislators to extend for another year the declaration of Martial Law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.
Hontiveros said that the new Martial Law extension poses new threats to Philippine democracy, particulary the people's right to suffrage, as the period covers the 2019 midterm elections.
"Ganito na ba tayo taun-taon? Christmas tradition na ba ng gobyernong ito na patuloy na habaan ang buhay ng Martial Law sa Mindanao? Kahit sa darating na eleksyon, may Martial Law sa Mindanao?" Hontiveros asked.
"Under a government with a dismal human rights record, Martial Law could be used to harass the political opposition and the electoral opponents of the President and his allies. This could take the form of restraining their activities, branding them terrorists and subversives and even putting them behind bars. This has historical precedent," Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros pointed to the 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa election which was held during the height of Martial Law under former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Senator explained that the said electoral exercise was marred by large-scale cheating and reports of election-related violence, including a crackdown on popular protests, the arrest of people from the opposition on election eve and a raid on the house of opposition cadidate, Charito Planas. Marcos's political party won 151 of the 161 contested seats.
Elections in Mindanao under Martial Law: Dangerous, a paralyzing combo
Hontiveros said that the climate of impunity and abuses under President Duterte does little to inspire confidence in Martial Law. "I can very well see a situation in which a case of rebellion will be filed against a political opponent, he or she will be arrested and detained, and with the writ of habeas corpus still suspended, he or she will not be able to campaign or participate in the electoral exercise. This is not far-fetched. The Duterte administration has a record of distorting the rule of law and mobilizing the state's resources and machinery against its perceived opponents," she said.
"For these reasons, extending further Martial Law in Mindanao covering the midterm election may prove not only to be dangerous but also a paralyzing combination," Hontiveros concluded.